This month, the idea is to think pink

Maryland Independent - - Community Forum -

All this month, the idea of pink is to make you think.

Through­out Oc­to­ber, to high­light breast can­cer aware­ness, every edi­tion of the Mary­land In­de­pen­dent will fea­ture the pink breast can­cer aware­ness rib­bon in the flag at the top of our front page. It’s just one small ac­tion taken to re­mind women to get screened, and to re­mind ev­ery­one to sup­port those who are fight­ing or have lost some­one to this hor­ri­ble and nondis­crim­i­na­tory dis­ease.

With one in eight women be­ing di­ag­nosed with breast can­cer in their life­time, many of us are painfully aware of the hor­rors of this dis­ease from per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence. The most com­mon can­cer in the world among women, ac­cord­ing to the World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion, breast can­cer claims the lives of more than 40,500 each year, and more than 250,000 are di­ag­nosed an­nu­ally. It equates to a di­ag­no­sis every two min­utes — and a breast can­cer death every 13 min­utes.

These are sober­ing statis­tics. But the good news is, ac­cord­ing to the Na­tional Breast Can­cer Foun­da­tion, there has been a grad­ual re­duc­tion in fe­male breast can­cer rates among women 50 and older. Death rates have been de­clin­ing since 1990 due to bet­ter screen­ing, early de­tec­tion, in­creased aware­ness and im­prove­ments in treat­ment. Ef­forts like Breast Can­cer Aware­ness Month in Oc­to­ber are surely mak­ing a dif­fer­ence.

While breast can­cer is the most com­mon, the next most com­mon can­cers are lung can­cer and prostate can­cer. Other es­pe­cially com­mon can­cer types in this coun­try, ac­cord­ing to the Na­tional Can­cer In­sti­tute, in­clude blad­der, colon and rec­tal, en­dome­trial, kid­ney, liver, pan­cre­atic and thy­roid can­cers as well as leukemia, melanoma and non-Hodgkin’s lym­phoma. Gov. Larry Ho­gan (R) is a sur­vivor of the last ver­sion of can­cer on that list.

More peo­ple ac­tu­ally die each year of colon and rec­tal can­cer than breast can­cer. And more than three times as many die from lung can­cer than colon and rec­tal can­cer.

The idea of wear­ing pink be­gan in 1991, when the Su­san G. Komen Foun­da­tion handed out pink rib­bons to par­tic­i­pants in its New York City race for breast can­cer sur­vivors. And it has stuck.

The rea­son the en­tire month of Oc­to­ber is dubbed Breast Can­cer Aware­ness Month is right in the name: aware­ness. Dur­ing this time, many ad­ver­tis­ers and na­tional breast can­cer foun­da­tions pour a great deal of money and en­ergy into ef­forts to in­form the pub­lic that breast can­cer is the most com­mon form of can­cer for women — but, with early de­tec­tion, it is also the most treat­able. These or­ga­ni­za­tions, most no­tably the Amer­i­can Can­cer So­ci­ety and Komen, urge women to check them­selves reg­u­larly for early signs, talk to their doc­tors and get mam­mo­grams. The mes­sage is very clear: The ear­lier breast can­cer is de­tected, the bet­ter a woman’s chances for sur­vival.

While women are the most likely to be di­ag­nosed with breast can­cer, men are not en­tirely im­mune to the dis­ease. The third week in Oc­to­ber is rec­og­nized as Male Breast Can­cer Aware­ness Week. Men, too, should be checked reg­u­larly by their doc­tors dur­ing yearly phys­i­cals.

So take the time to learn about how you can get a jump on de­feat­ing can­cer by read­ing up on the re­search, speak­ing with your doc­tor and per­form­ing self­checks reg­u­larly. Also, take a moment to do­nate to the Amer­i­can Can­cer So­ci­ety or Komen, or to one of the or­ga­ni­za­tions right here in Charles County, to keep funds flow­ing for re­search so that one day we can be rid of can­cer in all its forms.

While it is a nice ges­ture to run, race or pur­chase pink prod­ucts, per­haps the first step to keep from be­ing part of the star­tling statis­tics is to sim­ply sched­ule an an­nual phys­i­cal. Those in­di­vid­ual vic­to­ries can go a long way in help­ing us win the big fight against can­cer.

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